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Breast Health

Breast health awareness is essential for all women, but particularly as we age.

The symptoms of breast cancer may include any of the following:

  • A change in size or shape – it may be that one breast has become larger.
  • Changes in the nipple – in direction or shape, pulled in or flattened nipple.
  • Changes on or around the nipple – rash, flaky or crusted skin.
  • Changes in the skin – dimpling, puckering or redness.
  • ‘Orange peel’ appearance of the skin caused by unusually enlarged pores.
  • Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.
  • A lump, any size, or thickening in your breast.
  • Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit.

What to do if you find something?

If you do notice any change in your breasts, see your doctor as soon as possible. Remember that most breast changes are not cancer and are harmless. When your doctor examines your breasts she or he may be able to reassure you that there is nothing to worry about. If the change could be connected with your hormones, your doctor may ask you to come back at a different stage in your menstrual cycle.

Alternatively, you may be sent to a breast clinic for a more detailed examination. Don’t worry that you may be making an unnecessary fuss and remember that nine out of ten breast lumps are harmless.

Breast cancer screening

Breast screening involves a mammogram x-ray of the breasts, which can detect early signs of cancer before it can be seen or felt. Screening has been proven to reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer, as the disease is very treatable if detected early.

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, currently offers free mammograms to women aged 50-67. The programme invites eligible women, on an area by area basis, for free screening every two years. You can register online for BreastCheck or by calling freephone 1800 45 45 55.

How to check your breasts?

It is important that every woman is breast aware. This means knowing what is normal for you so that if any unusual change occurs, you will recognise it. The sooner you notice a change the better, because if cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts from time to time.

Techniques for checking your breasts

The 5 point breast awareness code:

  • Know what is normal for you.
  • Know what changes to look for.
  • Look and feel your breasts.
  • Discuss any changes with your GP without delay.
  • Attend routine breast screening if you are aged between 50 and 64.

Did you know?

Early diagnosis is a key to surviving breast cancer.
More than 2600 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year.
Irish women have a 1 in 12 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
74% of Irish women with breast cancer discovered the lump themselves.
Only about five to ten per cent of breast cancers are believed to have a family link.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Approximately 80%of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years.
Around 22 men develop breast cancer in Ireland each year.

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